Published November 7, 2015 in The Southern Illinoisan.
The original article can be found here.
CARBONDALE — Juana Duran said that if her older brother had never pushed her parents to allow him to graduate from high school in Cobden, she very well could be working as a migrant farmer.
Instead, she’s sitting at a table inside the Willow Street Studios in Carbondale, where she teaches art classes to children and adults.
That’s because her parents “heard” her brother and stopped moving long enough for him to graduate from high school and enroll in college, where he earned a degree in civil engineering. This brother, four years her senior, also pushed her and their three younger siblings, and Duran herself earned a degree in art education this year from Southern Illinois University.
Duran, who was born in Michoacán, Mexico, will be among the four panelists discussing the Latino experience in Southern Illinois at the Carbondale Public Library at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 10.
The presentation — “Pride, Prejudice and Latino Experience in Southern Illinois” — which includes the showing of a PBS film about Latinos in this country, will be hosted by the Illinois Migrant Council and Illinois Humanities.
The other scheduled presenters are René Francisco Poitevin, coordinator of SIU-Carbondale’s Hispanic/Latino Resource Center; Bridget Phillips, coordinator of the Illinois Migrant Council’s Technology Learning Center in Cobden; and Jane Adams, professor emerita of anthropology at SIU. The panel will be moderated by Jeff Williams of WSIU.
Poitevin said Latinos have been part of the Southern Illinois makeup since the 19th century, because of the area’s focus on agriculture.
Hispanics make up 16.7 percent of the state’s population of 12,880,580, according to 2014 Census data. The numbers are lower in parts of Southern Illinois. In Carbondale, for instance, they constitute 5.4 percent of the city’s population of 26,324 — some 1,421 Hispanics. In Marion, Hispanics are 2.6 percent of city’s population of 17,438.
In places like Cobden, Hispanics are 28.61 percent of that city’s population of 1,135.
A family on the move
Duran plans to share her experiences growing up in a migrant family, which she said moved three to four times a year. Part of those moves included a once-a-year stay in Cobden, which is where Duran considers her home school.
Because her family moved so much, and because she and her family did not understand much English when she was younger, her grades suffered and she didn’t understand much of what was going on, she said. Then, when she moved to a new school district, administrators often had to take her at her word that she was in a certain grade, because school records could often not be found.
Her family was part of a larger group that moved, a group that included her grandparents, an aunt and uncle and some other family friends.
“Everyone around us was doing the same thing as us,” she said. “To us it was very normal.”
Once her family stopped moving so much, her grades improved and she graduated from high school and college with honors, she said.
She said her parents — Francisco and Lilia Duran — were able to put her brother through college on their $200 a week combined salary. She said there were times when there was no heat or running water because of the sacrifices they made for him.
“Besides my parents, he (my brother, Heriberto Duran) was really our inspiration,” she said. “He always challenged us — we never really thought about college.”
More role models and representation
She’s focused now on serving as a role model to her own nieces and nephews and other young Latino children in Cobden, where she works as a substitute teacher.
“It’s because it’s a way of helping children like us achieve a higher education,” she said.
The group will also hear from Poitevin, coordinator of SIU Carbondale’s Hispanic/Latino Resource Center. Two months ago, Poitevin identified some concerns for the local Latino community as a lack of bilingual services for Spanish-speaking residents trying to access the city’s social services.
“At SIU, even though the University has made progress in addressing the needs of Latino students on campus, I think that we are not there yet,” he wrote in an email. “We still need more Latino faculty, staff, and resources.”